DJI Mavic Air

DJI Mavic Air

12MP, 1/2.3" CMOS sensor | 3-axis gimbal | 4K/30p video

What we like:

  • Advanced Pilot Assistance System (APAS)
  • 100 Mbps video codec
  • 32MP spherical photo mode

What we don't:

  • 21-minute flight time
  • Noisy for its size
The DJI Mavic Air is a foldable quadcopter that's small enough to slip into a handbag or jacket pocket. Weighing less than 16 ounces, it’s a very good ‘take anywhere’ drone. Despite its very small size, the Mavic Air has a complete feature set, and is a great choice for travel or to take on vacation.
The Mavic Air boasts an impressive maximum speed of 68 km/h (42 mph). The 21-minute flight time is on the short side compared to many models. Its Advanced Pilot Assistance System (APAS) utilizes forward, backward, and downward vision sensors, as well as downward infrared sensors, to create a 3D map of the environment around the aircraft, allowing it to bypass or go around obstacles in its path. Given the amount of fun it is to operate, you’ll probably want to pick up some extra batteries at a cost of $79 each.
The Mavic Air has a very complete feature set, and is a great choice for travel or to take on vacation.
The Air’s most notable photographic feature is the spherical panorama mode, which shoots 25 photos in just eight seconds, then stitches them into a 32MP spherical image. The camera is built around a 1/2.3” CMOS sensor with 12MP resolution, and a 24mm equivalent F2.8 lens provides an 85° FOV. It features a 3-axis gimbal for excellent camera stabilization. Despite using what is essentially a smartphone image sensor, DJI manages to squeeze an impressive amount of quality out of the camera.
Video can be recorded at a rate up to 4K/30p, 2.7K/60p, or at 1080p/120p for slow motion with a 100Mbps H.264 codec. Video quality is impressive for such a small sensor, and still images can be captured in DNG Raw format. The Air even includes 8GB of built-in memory, for that time when you inevitably forget to bring a memory card along.
The included controller pairs with your smartphone and supports DJI’s standard flight features such as ActiveTrack and Tap-Fly. Even more exciting, the Air introduces a number of useful flight modes called QuickShots, which automate the process of creating cinematic video clips. Examples include Asteroid (zooming from close-up to a ‘tiny planet’ view from above) and Dronie (a drone selfie mode where the aircraft backs away from you). Other modes include Rocket, Circle, Helix, and Boomerang. The Mavic Air can also be controlled via smartphone and has SmartCapture, a built-in feature from DJI that allows you to maneuver the drone with hand gestures. One setback regarding the remote controller is that it uses Wi-Fi for connectivity instead of DJI's more robust Lightbridge or OcuSync signal transmission systems. The latter two perform much better over long distances. While DJI claims the Mavic Air can fly up to 2.5 miles away, only under near-perfect circumstances would it make sense to test that limit.
The Mavic Air includes an impressive array of features in a very compact package, but it's not without tradeoffs. While its small size is guaranteed to get your attention, so is the noise it generates; it's a bit loud for its size. Also, if getting the absolute best image quality is your priority, consider a model with a 1”-type image sensor instead. With those caveats in mind, the Mavic Air should excel at just about anything you throw at it, from family vacations to adventurous filmmaking.